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The WT2 in-ear translator arrives in January, with real-time feedback coming soon

Timekettle was eager to show us the progress it’s made on the WT2 since it first showed us its wearable translation device at TechCrunch Shenzhen this time last year. Unlike their 3D-printed state at last year’s event, the crowdfunded earpieces are now ready to ship. They’ve already started going out to early backers and will begin shipping in January to those who pre-order now. The hardware is quite solid. The set-up looks a bit like an oversized AirPods case that snaps together magnetically. The idea is to pull it apart and hand one side to the person you want to talk to. You choose the language via the app and each of you put one in your ear. The two translators are indistinguishable, but for a small line (the “eyebrow”) above the light-up word bubble logo used to identify the second unit. It’s a clever take on wearable translators like the lukewarmly received Google Pixel Buds. The idea is to create a translation product that allows wearers to actively engage one another through eye contact and body language — which remain important insight even when you don’t share a language. It’s an interesting point of friction, however. In plenty of situations, it’s probably a bridge too far to ask a stranger to jam your earpiece in their ear. For, say, business situations, on the other hand, it could ultimately prove a useful tool. For the former, the company’s got other methods to interact with the product, including app-based communication. There’s also a mode more akin to a walkie-talkie, in which the speaker taps the logo to talk. This bit was designed to help avoid picking up ambient noise. Overall, I was pretty impressed with the experience. The translation isn’t perfect, as evidenced by the above transcript from my conversation with the company’s CEO. But given the ambient noise, a somewhat spotty cellular connection and the fact that my conversation partner insisted on walking around, the WT2 performed admirably. At present, the translations are somewhat delayed. The earpiece waits for you to finish speaking for a few seconds and then offers…

Kegel trainer startup Elvie is launching a smaller, smarter, hands-free breast pump

Elvie, a London-based startup known best for its connected Kegel trainer, is jumping into the breast pump business with a new $480 hands-free system you can slip into your bra. Even with all the innovation in baby gear, breast pumps have mostly sucked (pun intended) for new moms for the past half a century. My first experience with a pump required me to stay near a wall socket and hunch over for a good 20 to 30 minutes for fear the milk collected might spill all over the place (which it did anyway, frequently). It was awful! Next I tried the Willow Pump, an egg-shaped, connected pump meant to liberate women everywhere with its small and mobile design. It received glowing reviews, though my experience with it was less than stellar. The proprietary bags were hard to fit in the device, filled up with air, cost 50 cents each (on top of the $500 pump that insurance did not cover), wasted many a golden drop of precious milk in the transfer and I had to reconfigure placement several times before it would start working. So I’ve been tentatively excited about the announcement of Elvie’s new cordless (and silent??) double breast pump. Displayed: a single Elvie pump with accompanying app Elvie tells TechCrunch its aim all along has been to make health tech for women and that it has been working on this pump for the past three years. The Elvie Pump is a cordless, hands-free, closed-system, rechargeable electric pump designed by former Dyson engineers. It can hold up to 5 oz. from each breast in a single use. It’s most obvious and direct competition is the Willow pump, another “wearable” pump moms can put right in their bra and walk around in, hands-free. However, unlike the Willow, Elvie’s pump does not need proprietary bags. You just pump right into the device and the pump’s smartphone app will tell you when each side is full. It’s also half the size and weight of a Willow and saves every precious drop it can by pumping right into the attached bottle so you just pump…

Movado Group acquires watch startup MVMT

The Movado Group, which sells multiple brands, including Lacoste, Tommy Hilfiger and Hugo Boss, has purchased MVMT, a small watch company founded by Jacob Kassan and Kramer LaPlante in 2013. The company, which advertised heavily on Facebook, logged $71 million in revenue in 2017. Movado purchased the company for $100 million. “The acquisition of MVMT will provide us greater access to millennials and advances our Digital Center of Excellence initiative with the addition of a powerful brand managed by a successful team of highly creative, passionate and talented individuals,” Movado Chief Executive Efraim Grinberg said. MVMT makes simple watches for the millennial market in the vein of Fossil or Daniel Wellington. However, the company carved out a niche by advertising heavily on social media and being one of the first microbrands with a solid online presence. “It provides an opportunity to Movado Group’s portfolio as MVMT continues to cross-sell products within its existing portfolio, expand product offerings within its core categories of watches, sunglasses and accessories, and grow its presence in new markets through its direct-to-consumer and wholesale business,” said Grinberg. MVMT is well-known as a “fashion brand,” namely a brand that sells cheaper quartz watches that are sold on style versus complexity or cost. Their pieces include standard three-handed models and newer quartz chronographs.

Shoe startups aren’t dragging their feet

Joanna Glasner Contributor More posts by this contributor Hydrate, intoxicate, caffeinate, repeat: Meet the startups pouring the future VCs serve up a large helping of cash to startups disrupting food Good thing Carrie Bradshaw, the shoe-loving heroine of Sex and the City, wasn’t a footwear venture capitalist. The high-heeled, high-priced and hard-to-walk-in pairs beloved by the TV icon are pretty much the least fundable concept in the shoe startup space lately. Instead, when they do dip their toe in the footwear space, venture investors have been putting a premium on comfort. At least that’s what recent funding records indicate. Over the past year-and-a-half, investors have tied up roughly $170 million in an assortment of shoe-related startups, according to an analysis of Crunchbase data. The vast majority is going to sellers and designers of footwear that people might actually want to walk in. Top funding recipients are a varied bunch, including everything from used sneaker marketplaces to high-end designers to toddler play shoes. Startups are also experimenting with little-used materials, turning used plastic bottles, merino wool and other substances into chic wearables. Below, we look at how startups are leveraging market trends to get a foot in the door. Growth market It should be noted that recent footwear funding activity comes on the heels of some positive developments for the shoe industry. First, this is a huge and growing industry. One recent report pegged the global footwear market at $246 billion in 2017, with annual growth rates of around 4.5 percent. Second, public markets are strong. Shares of the world’s most valuable footwear company — Nike — have climbed more than 50 percent over the past nine months to reach a market cap of nearly $130 billion. Stocks of several smaller rivals, including Adidas, have also performed well. Third, men are spending more on footwear. Though they’ve long been stereotyped as the gender with more restrained shoe-buying habits, men are putting more money into footwear and could be on track to close the spending gap. Sneakering in Both men and women are spending more on sneakers, and venture capitalists have taken notice. Sneakers and sneaker-related businesses…

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